$5.3 Billion To Keep Oregon Moving May Not Be Enough

Oregon received a “C-” grade for the quality of its infrastructure in the 2019 Infrastructure Report Card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

Despite pumping over $5 billion into transportation and infrastructure initiatives in 2017, called “Keep Oregon Moving,” the report’s grades and observations suggest that the 2017 plans for overhauling the state’s infrastructure may not have gone far enough. 

The Oregon Department of Transportation has 15 projects under construction, with around 80 others across the early stages of planning and paperwork. But state officials and infrastructure advocates alike are warning ODOT that issues like structurally deficient bridges, at risk from an increasingly probable seismic event, weren’t fully covered by the 2017 bill.  

20 percent of Oregon’s 8,000+ bridges have been determined to be structurally deficient, meaning at least one major structural component of the bridge is in poor condition. The Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s website states that “scientists are predicting that there is about a 37 percent chance that a megathrust earthquake of 7.1+ magnitude in this fault zone will occur in the next 50 years,” for which which many deficient structures like bridges are not prepared. 

Van Buren Bridge, the one-lane bridge that serves as one of only a handful of ways to cross the Willamette River out of Corvallis, is one of these structurally deficient bridges. $69 million from the bill is allocated to make repairs and upgrades on the bridge, which is 105 years old. 

Projections for the cost of upgrading all of Oregon’s deficient bridges is growing, and is expected to reach totals over three times the current $5.3 billion budget. 

The worst grades in Oregon’s report card are wastewater (D), energy (D+), levees (D+) and dams (D+). 

By Ian MacRonald